Company directors, employees and contractors who fail to
notify relevant parties of incidents that have caused, or may
cause, environmental harm may face significant fines.
The Environmental Protection Act 1994 (Qld) is the key
legislative tool to prevent environmental harm in Queensland. It
also sets out a range of enforcement options that can be imposed
when environmental harm occurs. The Act is the source of the
general environmental duty not to carry out any activity that
causes or is likely to cause environmental harm, unless measures to
prevent or minimise the harm have been taken.
However, the Act also contains a duty to notify of
environmental harm. The purpose of the duty is to inform
the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection
(DEHP) and the landowner or occupier of land about
incidents that may have caused or threaten to cause serious or
material environmental harm. This duty applies to a range of people
contractors and agents, including technical advisers such as
engineers, project managers and civil contractors;
owners and occupiers of land;
Landowners and occupiers also have a duty to notify DEHP if a
notifiable activity is, or has been, carried out on the land. A
notifiable activity is an activity that causes or is likely to
cause contamination. A complete list is set out in
Schedule 3 of the Act, and includes asbestos manufacture or
disposal, printing, livestock dip or spray race operations, and
petroleum or chemical storage.
Notification must be given within 24 hours of an event that
causes or is likely to cause environmental harm. The specifics of
this duty depends on who has knowledge, For example, a truck driver
must notify their employer of a spill within 24 hours of becoming
aware of a spill, and then that employer must notify DEHP within 24
hours of becoming aware. Any other person who becomes aware of an
event must also provide notice, as must an owner or occupier of
land, or an auditor.
The owner or occupier of land that is or may be affected by the
event must also be notified as soon as reasonably practicable.
Where the people affected by the event might be difficult to
contact or ascertain, then public notice may be required.
Notification must usually be in writing, and should include
details about the nature of the event and how it occurred. The DEHP
has a standard form that may be used to provide notice.
A failure to provide notice to the DEHP or owners and occupiers
can attract a maximum penalty of $58,900.
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The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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The article is a review of recent developments in compliance, enforcement and prosecutions relating to environmental law.
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